How David Beckham became his own brand
Does David Beckham possess the world’s most famous face? Possibly. For a guy who retired in 2013, he’s sustained a remarkable prominence in society.
That’s because Beckham has developed his brand to the point where his name means hundreds of millions of dollars to corporations. Much of that business is centred on Asia: his regular visits and interactions with people from all walks of life here have fostered a genuine appreciation for the region.
And that’s why he’s here today, as Global Ambassador for Sands. He’s on a tour of sorts – one that also encompasses Marina Bay Sands in Singapore.
“This,” he says, “is being ambassador of Sands. This is the obligation that I have. We have quite a few partners and businesses in this part of the world. We try to spend as much time with them as possible.”
These partnerships have, in turn, strengthened Beckham’s interest in Macao as a city.
“It’s one of those places that I’ve been intrigued [with] because when we first came here, and the partnership started, Macao was growing, and it’s still growing now.”
He is constantly taken aback by the pace of development on the Cotai Strip. “It’s amazing to see every time we come back that there’s a new building, something different."
“Coming to Sands, the entertainment’s great, the hotels are amazing, the food’s incredible. The people, the staff around the buildings are very friendly,” he says, adding that Victoria, the business magnate, former Spice Girl and his wife of 18 years, hasn’t yet visited Sands’ newest property, The Parisian Macao – but that she’s looking forward to it.
“She’s all about high quality and things that are beautiful. For sure she would love The Parisian.
“Being an ambassador is something that I’m very proud of. Whether it’s been The Venetian, The Parisian, Marina Bay in Singapore, and obviously in Vegas as well. So it’s a special partnership with special people, and an amazing brand and franchise.”
In 2014, Beckham went from being a brand partner to an owner, when he joined up with Global Brands Group, which is behind his latest campaign for Kent & Curwen, the British heritage menswear label. They’ve been around since 1926, Beckham says, and they do big business in China – including an outlet at Shoppes at Four Seasons.
His interest in high-level partnerships is particularly notable when you recall that, when younger, Beckham had eyes only for soccer. That focus, matched by an undeniable talent, raised him to the heights of football superstardom at Manchester United and Real Madrid, and he was soon travelling the world.
“I was 18 or 19 the first time that I came to China,” he says. “I’ve spent so much time over the years in Asia … I’ve always had an affection for this part of the world and for the people. I’ve always loved food. I’ve always loved culture … It’s why I spend so much time here.”
This affinity is a big part of Beckham’s enduring popularity across the continent. To his legions of fans, Beckham’s willingness to return, time and time again, is a signal that he appreciates them.
His newest tattoo can be seen as a reaffirmation of his bond with China: a depiction on his shin of Chang’e, the Chinese moon goddess – though Beckham suggests the decision process was almost impulsive: “I decided I wanted to have
something that was beautiful … I found this image [of Chang’e] and just went with it,” he says.
Beckham often describes his decisions in this way: as spontaneous; improvised. Yet there is method to it, and a big part of his philosophy is to give something back to those communities that have fuelled his success. Most recently, Beckham announced his role within the global ownership of new Futbol Miami MLS Club. “Our pledge to our fans in Miami and around the world is simple: your team will always strive to make you proud on the pitch, our stadium will be a place that you cherish visiting, and our impact in the community and on South Florida’s youth will run deep."
In 2013, he teamed up with the Chinese Super League (CSL) and Youth Football Program to coach soccer in China. “It’s important for me to be involved in organisations that help young kids and countries to develop in different areas of sport,” he explains. “I was very proud to give my knowledge over to young kids and help them become better players.”
For China’s footballing community, there is one ultimate dream: that of winning the World Cup. Yet as fantastical as that might seem right now, Beckham seems confident about the country’s chances of being a soccer superpower.
“A country as big as China, with the passion that they have, and the development that is going on throughout the country? I don’t think it is going to take too long.”
Beckham was still playing professionally when he found other ways to exercise his altruism. He’s devoted considerable energy to combating malaria, both alongside tennis star Andy Murray, with whom he helped launch Malaria No More UK in 2009, and now with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
“We have a real chance of eradicating malaria from this planet,” he says, pointing out that’s a goal that no one can argue with. “We all want to save lives in all different parts of the world, and eradicating this disease is something we all want.”
Beckham has also been a Unicef ambassador for 11 years, and set
up his own fund – the 7 fund – on their behalf three years ago, to help
children as far afield as Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Cambodia and Latin
America, with everything from food aid to education.
“We’ve raised a lot of money and shone a light on many different
situations that are harming children around the world,” he says. “It’s
probably my proudest work.”
He believes strongly that celebrities should not just put their name to
a cause, but actually show up and lend a hand. Case in point: he doesn’t
just raise awareness of the need for vaccinations in Djibouti – he’ll
turn up there.
“We try to do one or two trips on the ground a year,” he says. “When
you’re invested in a charity, I think it’s important that you show your
commitment and you really see what is happening, and where the money
being raised is going.”
It’s this sort of approach that marks Beckham out from his celebrity
peers. He doesn’t make a fuss about it – he keeps calm and carries on.
Because, for all the international causes, the business empire and his
cultural chameleon status, Beckham remains an Englishman at heart.
“I never like to get away from England for any reason other than when
we’re vacationing; working,” he says. “It’s not something I ever like getting
away from.” He has come to terms with who he is – just as he came to
terms with his role as a dad of four.
“First off I’m a father. That’s the most important job for me. Even
when I was playing it was the most important job for me. And I think
I have a great team of people around me, good friends around me,
great family, and when you have that you have a good chance of being
successful, but it takes hard work. I’ve never been afraid of hard work.”